Opting for a healthy option
POLLEN TEA ROOM
56 Hampden Rd, Battery Point. Friday, Monday and Tuesday, 7am- 4pm; weekends 8am- 4pm. BYO. 6224 8000
ROOM, singular, is the operative word. And a very small cottage room at that, at this time of the year nicely warmed by a wood fire with just one communal table, another for two in the corner, a window bench with stools, a galley- like kitchen/ coffee/ servery and alfresco tables out the back for summer.
The style of food is announced on a specials blackboard headed GF, SF, DF, VG and RAW, which, for me, spelled: “Graeme, what are you doing here?”
But it was deadline time and, well, I’m glad I stayed. Not quite an omnivore’s epiphany but a most enjoyable experience for someone like me nonetheless.
Shae McCrickard and Matthew Botakis opened Pollen about two years ago, serving the sort of clean food they like to eat.
Since a breakfast of devilled kidneys wasn’t on offer, I chose chia seed pudding for which the small black chia seeds were soaked for a few hours in house- made cashew milk until they swelled to become pudding- like, then served topped with shredded coconut, walnuts, assorted seeds and fresh strawberries drizzled with real maple syrup.
Chia, Matt said, was one of the Aztecs’ superfoods which, like quinoa, was heralded once again as a modern superfood, both coming to us from Central and South America as our potatoes, tomatoes, corn, chocolate and many other foods did centuries ago.
As Matt explained – and as no doubt many readers already know – “superfoods” are those that contain exceptionally high concentrations of mineral and nutritional goodness.
“Growing up in Melbourne, I was living on the usual deep- fried crap most young people eat,” Matt said.
“Until Shae introduced me to the food at a little vegan cafe she used to deliver flowers to.
“The effect of the change on our health, energy levels and lives was profound.”
Hobart- born Shae, a former dancer who is studying holistic nutrition with the aim of becoming a health coach, added: “So I asked the cafe if I could have a job in their kitchen. And after a lot of research, here we are, our first venture.”
I was on more familiar ground with the dishes that followed. My wife said her housemade organic bircher with yoghurt, cinnamon, honey, fruit and a jug of almond milk on the side was “delicious”. “The best I’ve ever eaten,” she added. For me, the cayenne chilli beans with a baked egg were fine, the chilli milder than the seven- out- of- 10 Matt had advised.
However, I felt the smashed avocado, feta and coriander on sourdough would have benefited from more avocado, less of the feta’s drying acidity and a lot more fresh coriander, mint, pea tendrils or similar to lift it.
Then came a slice of an uncooked cacao and avocado tart on a base of crushed, dehydrated hazelnuts – recycled from making their hazelnut milk – sweetened with rice malt syrup.
I’m not sure quite how it held together but it was beautifully flavoured and textured.
Breakfast had started with a fashionable jar – not a glass – of cold- pressed beetroot, ginger and apple juice, and finished with spiced chai, a wonderfully rich hot chocolate and an excellent locally roasted, single- origin coffee.
Alternatively, I could have chosen nonalcoholic kombucha to start or a tea from the array of 22 green, white, black, spiced, organic and botanical teas from India, China, Japan and South Africa, the largest and most diverse selection of leaves I’ve seen on offer in a restaurant since the days of Chado – The Way of Tea, on Elizabeth St.
Altogether, it was an interesting, instructive and enjoyably healthy start to my day. And I admire the consistency of their philosophy as well as the fact that, rather than proselytising, they’re simply doing what they believe in, doing it very well and, in doing so, providing Hobart with something unique.